Is the Customer Always Right?

Post by Mattias Bergman

PT Barnum – or somebody a whole lot like him – said “Give the customer what they want.”

More recently, in her book “How to Write and Sell Historical Fiction,” Persia Woolley warns against being too accurate in even the most well-researched historical fiction. Especially if accuracy flies in the face of widely-held misconception. One example used is travel from Scotland to England in King Arthur’s time, across the north of England. Now, of course, the famous Yorkshire Moors are vast expanses of open, largely-treeless hills. In King Arthur’s day, the place was dense woods.

After a lot of give and take, modern-day perceptions won out. The story showed travel across the moors.

This example, and many more examples, are harmless enough. But what of something even more insidious, something we have all (probably) been guilty of in our own writings? Namely, projecting our current cultural environment into the storyline, and often into the narrator’s POV in our stories.

We might do this for all the “right” reasons. Having all of our characters, whether in historical fiction, noir, fantasy or science fiction setting — all of which are far removed from our comfortable 21st-century suburbia/urbia — be social justice warriors of one sort or another. Or, the plot has to move along current culturally-accepted norms (no violence, talk your way out of everything, the bad guy can never be a minority, etc) We may get a warm, comfortable glow from such a slant, feel oh-so-noble in our social gatherings, and perhaps even increase book sales to fellow virtue-signalers.

But is it good writing?

I don’t pretend to have the answer, but I think it’s a question we must all ask. It begs a few follow-up questions:

      • Is such writing just another form of “cultural imperialism”? If so, should we not avoid it?
      • Will such writing “date” our work, shortening its shelf-life? Read some 40s and 50s noir novels, for instance, and see how the author himself treats certain ethnic groups. It kinda grates.
      • Conversely, will writing “true to form” fiction hamper sales and longevity. Witness, for instance, the current backlash against the language in Huckleberry Finn, even if it was a quite progressive and enlightened book for its time.

What do you think?

Release News: Pre-Orders Available for The Guardian of the Opera: Nocturne

We are pleased to announce that Kindle pre-orders are now open for one of our author’s upcoming books.  Nocturne (The Guardian of the Opera, Book 1) by Cheryl Mahoney is now available for pre-order.

Order your copy now

The book will release on June 5th, and will also be available in paperback and hardback.

A retelling of the Phantom of the Opera from a new perspective, here’s a bit about the book:

Set against the backdrop of 1880s Paris and the stunning Opera Garnier, The Guardian of the Opera: Nocturne brings you the familiar tale from a different direction. Meg Giry met the Phantom once when she was twelve years old, a new ballet dancer lost in the Opera’s maze. Years later, when an Angel of Music offers singing lessons to her best friend Christine Daaé, Meg is sure she knows what’s actually happening. But as strange events unfold and the pieces stop adding up, Meg has to wonder if she truly understands the Phantom—or Christine.

Erik is a man of many talents and many masks, and the one covering his face may be the least concealing. The opera house is his kingdom and his refuge, where he stalks through the shadows as the Phantom of the Opera, watching over all that occurs. He never intended to fall in love; when he does, it launches him into a new symphony he’s certain can only end in heartbreak.

We hope you’ll consider checking it out.  Visit Cheryl’s blog, MarvelousTales.com, for more information.